On Democracy Day, it was reported that a building collapsed in Lagos and caused the death of two persons with many others injured. This, as usual, will go into the statistics books of collapsed buildings and the deaths and pains they brought about just for the records with no meaningful step taken to stop the erection of buildings that are not strong enough to serve the desired purpose. It has become a recurring cycle of official inaction if not ineptitude. In an earlier editorial with the above caption, we called for expeditious passage of the National building Code Bill that will make it possible for someone to be held responsible when these incidences of collapsed buildings occur. We are compelled to draw the authorities’ attention to that all- important issue again.
A six-storey guest house under construction, belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), recently collapsed, killing over 100 people, most of them foreigners. The building, according to reports, was originally a two-storey building, said to be less than four years old, which the church decided to extend. It was also reported that the building had no approval from relevant agencies of the Lagos State Government. Officials of the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) had in the wake of the incident, told journalists that the collapsed structure had no approval, but the church fired back, saying no contravention notice was served on it before the collapse.
This is just one incident. There have been several cases of building collapse in the country with attendant loss of lives and revenue. According to the Nigeria Institute of Building (NIB), 84 buildings have collapsed in Nigeria in 20 years, with most of them occurring between 1999 and 2009, claiming at least 400 lives. In a study conducted in 2012, Dr. Adedeji Adeniran quoted the NIB as saying that investigations into cases of building collapse had revealed that at least 50 per cent of the incidents were due to design fault, 40 per cent to construction fault and 10 per cent to product failures, while another study, according to him, also revealed that 37 per cent of building collapses can be traced to carelessness and greed on the part of construction professionals.
Building collapse leads to loss of lives, money and investments and is also not good for the image of the country. Each time a building collapses, issues of building plan approval, the professionals who worked on it and the quality of materials used are some of the issues that come up. The country has a National Building Code which is presently before the National Assembly, which has to pass a Bill for its enforcement. The Bill would make the building code operational. The Senate recently mandated its committee on public housing to organise a sensitisation public hearing on the matter. This is not enough.
The National Building code specifies minimum acceptable standard in the final product. All professionals in the built environment, namely, builders, architects, estate surveyors, quantity surveyors, town planners, engineers agree that there is a need to make the code operational as this will eliminate quacks and we agree with them. What this means is that all persons involved in the building process would be registered and licensed and could have their licences revoked if it is found that negligence on their part caused a building to fail.
Like most other laws we have in the country, the problem of enforcement is inherent. We therefore call on professionals in the sector and regulatory bodies to ensure that when operational, the law would be enforced to the extent that professionals working on specific projects must be known and must undertake to take responsibility for whatever thing that happens on the site they are working on. All stakeholders must bear in mind that only strict enforcement of building regulations can take the country out of the woods and save us the embarrassment that comes with each building collapse.
Nigerians who engage people to carry out projects for them must also be mindful of who they engage because in the event of a collapse, it is the property owner that loses his investment.